OMB Confirms Hours-Of-Service Rulemaking Still Under Review

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A White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) spokesman has confirmed that widely anticipated proposed changes to driver hours-of-service (HOS) regulations are still under review at OMB.

The rulemaking proposal, which Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) chief Ray Martinez had originally anticipated rolling out as part of a “fast-track” schedule, was initially delayed by the federal government shutdown that occurred in late December 2018. U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao subsequently confirmed in late March this year at the Mid-America Trucking Show that the proposed rulemaking had been sent to OMB.

Although quick approval from OMB was considered likely given the significance of the rule, the original publication date wasn’t until May 8, with a comment period ending June 6. The publication date was then pushed back to July 31, with a comment period ending September 16.

However, OMB press secretary Chase Jennings said the rulemaking is still in the hands of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which has authority over executive branch regulations. When asked about an updated publication date, Jennings said his office “historically does not comment on rules until review is finalized.”

Given the latest delay, a final rule may not be rolled out before the end of the year. But even if a final rule isn’t published until early 2020, an implementation date for changes made to the rules – which are usually three to six months later – would still fall under the three-year rulemaking time frame that Martinez has said he is hoping to beat.

The precursor to the anticipated proposed rulemaking, the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, was published on August 23, 2018, with an extended comment period ending October 10. The advanced rulemaking generated over 5,200 comments, and sought public input on several potential revisions to HOS rules, including: 

  • Whether to expand the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers.
  • Whether to extend the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions.
  • Whether to revise the mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after 8 hours of continuous driving.
  • Whether to reinstate the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment.

Portion (in hours) of 14-hour driving and on duty clock that is actual driving time (Aug. 6 = 7.36).
Source: SONAR

The advanced rulemaking also sought comment on two petitions. The Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) requested allowing drivers up to three hours of off-duty time to extend the 14-hour on-duty window. OOIDA also requested having the 30-minute rest break eliminated entirely.

TruckerNation, whose members are mainly smaller carriers and operators, requested that FMCSA revise the 14-hour rule so that rather than being prohibited from driving after the 14th hour of coming on duty, the driver be allowed to drive as long as they had not accumulated 14 hours of on-duty time.

At a panel discussion held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in May, a top official within DOT commented that once published, the new rules would reflect the Trump Administration’s priority of “common sense” regulatory changes that “take away the heavy-hand of government where it does not help the private sector.”

Image Sourced by Pixabay